Eco Warriors to the rescue!
Bringing beautiful botanical art to young readers
16 December 2014
The wonderful thing about getting older is an increasing appreciation for both beauty, and relics from the past. In the case of Australia's early botanical artists, both 'beauty' and 'the past' readily apply.
Some of Australia's finest artworks are held at the National Library of Australia. Its collection of early botanical art (straddling the nineteenth and twentieth centuries) is eye-popping. With original works from such talent as Ida McComish, Adam Forster, Ellis Rowan and E.E. Gostelow, you don't need to be a plant lover to become a little overwhelmed at the stunning creations into which these artists poured their hearts and souls.
The inspiration behind Eco Warriors to the rescue! was drawn from the work of the above artists, along with works by Marrianne Collinson Campbell and G.C. Fenton.
Poring over these striking images via the Library's online catalogue, I was struck by the realisation that few of these images would be openly enjoyed by our youngest Australians. Having quite the obsession for faction books for littlies (a combination of fact and fiction), I approached NLA Publishing with the idea of creating a book that would feature just a small handful of these beautiful works, in a production that would appeal to children aged 4 to 10, and so expose them to images they may never get the chance to see.
The concept for Eco Warriors was inspired by ecological themes and the preservation of our native flora. I wanted to incorporate real life children into the pages of this book, and so photographed my own son and two friends against a white backdrop, with the idea of 'sending' them into the pages of a very special book, on an atypical adventure.
Combining photography with photoshopped imagery and these selected botanical artworks, the book shows three 'ecological warriors' entering the pages of their favourite book, Australian flora, fauna and other curiosities, in search of unique ways to preserve our native plants. Along the way, they discover helpful tips, and learn more about these amazing, and often unique Australian flowers, bushes and trees.
Interacting directly with the botanical images, the kids are shown planting native specimens, testing for fresh water, planning the best place for a cubby house and cleaning up litter, among other scenarios.
At the end of the book, additional pages provide a wealth of information, from plant facts to Australian floral emblems and native birth flowers, adding extra educational components that are both fascinating and fun.
Planning and creating such a comprehensive book was a glorious experience, most especially due to the varying components that combine to make it so unique. But despite its vital ecological messaging and educational elements, those precious botanical artworks are the true heart and soul of Eco Warriors. Those striking and lovingly-rendered images so perfectly harness our botanical beauty and our nation's past, in a book designed for the people of our future.
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